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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-07-01

Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Wednesday, July 1, 1998


  • [01] Hunger and thirst set Arabs against Africans in drifting ship
  • [02] Employers sound alarm on economy
  • [03] Galanos slams CyBC 'bloody-mindedness' over soccer ads
  • [04] Officials grilled over inaction on car emissions
  • [05] UN renews Unficyp mandate, raps arms race
  • [06] Police face long process in search for Lady's Mile killer
  • [07] MMAD officer beaten up by drunken tourist
  • [08] Lifestyle to blame for high rate of heart deaths
  • [09] Crash victim found in crevasse

  • [01] Hunger and thirst set Arabs against Africans in drifting ship

    By Hamza Hendawi

    HUNGRY NO LONGER: a Kurdish Iraqi boy at the Pefkos Hotel in Limassol yesterdayPhoto by Christos Theodorides

    BLINDED BY thirst and anger, Arabs and Africans fought over food that was scarce and water that was even scarcer aboard the fishing trawler Rida Allah as it drifted for nine days under a scorching sun in the eastern Mediterranean.

    It all began as a journey filled with the optimism of immigrants, some of whom came from as far away as Rwanda and Sierra Leone. For all, it was infused with the hope of a better life in Western Europe.

    Instead, it turned into a harrowing trip that only ended on Monday, after a Ukrainian ship miraculously spotted two passengers who had left the boat on a raft. The 109 passengers were then rescued off Cyprus, some of them unconscious and others in need of treatment.

    Two people had already died, their bodies thrown overboard. Children and pregnant women had drunk sea water to try and quench their thirst, and children as young as three fought over bread, survivors told the Cyprus Mail yesterday in a hotel at Limassol, where they have been kept under armed police guard since Monday.

    With a six-man crew, the Syrian-flagged Rida Allah, Arabic for "God's blessing," sailed from Tripoli in northern Lebanon on June 18. It declared Benghazi on the Libyan coast as its official destination.

    In reality, the passengers wanted to be taken to Greece or Italy, paying unscrupulous middlemen in Sudan, Lebanon and northern Iraq thousands of dollars for passage aboard the boat. Their journey was part of a growing trade in illegal immigrants which uses isolated spots on the coasts of Cyprus or southern European countries as final destinations or transit points.

    Barely 20 hours after leaving Tripoli, Rida Allah was intercepted by a Cypriot coast guard vessel and boarded for inspection. The boat's skipper, 31-year-old Syrian Mohammed Mustafa, again declared his destination as Libya and, according to some accounts, threw overboard two rifles and ammunition just as the Cypriot vessel approached.

    After warning Mustafa that he was endangering the lives of his passengers, the Cypriot officers left the trawler but continued to shadow it for nearly five hours to ensure that it was following a course for Libya.

    But a day later, the vessel developed engine problems and the crew was unable to repair it, survivors said. Water and food began to run out and tensions began to rise.

    "Nearly 40 ships sailed past us, and there was no way they could not have seen us. But no one bothered to rescue us," said Farhad Izzideen Ali, a survivor from the northern Iraqi town of Zakho.

    As some ships passed, the survivors shouted for help. Some even started small fires to attract attention.

    The passengers, who included eight children and 12 women, barely had room to stretch out to sleep. Some drank sea water to stave off thirst. Others ate bread that was stale or even rotting.

    "My children were snatching the small pieces of bread from each other's mouths and fighting over them," said Idrees Mohammed Ali, another Iraqi Kurd, as his three children, aged 5, 3 and 10 months, played happily on the floor of their hotel room. His wife sat silently on the edge of one of the room's two beds, occasionally burying her face in her hands.

    "We have seen death and destruction in Iraq, but to see your own child dying from hunger and thirst is something else," Ali said.

    Faced with what seemed to be certain death, passengers resorted to violence. Africans attacked Arabs, and the Syrian captain, his crew and sympathetic passengers urged their fellow Arabs not to share food and water with the "African Christians", according to survivors.

    Most of the passengers hailed from Rwanda, Congo and Arab countries such as Lebanon, Iraq and Syria. They were mostly young, in their 20s or 30s.

    Arab survivors claim that the African passengers, who made up the majority of the 109 and were mostly young males, attacked them and the crew with knives three days before the rescue.

    "They took our food and water," shouted Leila Farahat al-Masri, an 8-year- old Lebanese girl who was on the boat with her father and seven-months' pregnant mother.

    But Peter Osagiadeliyi, a 30-year-old Rwandan, said the Arabs kept the ship's food and water to themselves.

    "I told my fellow blacks on the boat that it is better to die than let these people kill us," he said. "We took the and food and water, but later returned half," he added.

    Osagiadeliyi left Rwanda in 1993, the year before the central African state plunged into civil war and genocide, and has since lived with his wife in Ethiopia and Sudan before arriving in Tripoli as stowaways, in hope of making their way to Europe.

    He was kept with his wife and other would-be passengers in a village outside Tripoli for as long as two weeks before the journey. They were not allowed to leave the house where they stayed.

    "Whatever happens to us now is out of my control, I can only wait," he said at the hotel.

    Giving up hope that help would come, some of the passengers decided to seek it on their own. A makeshift raft was built of scrapwood and barrels to keep it afloat. Two men, a Rwandan and a Liberian, volunteered to leave the Rida Allah to find help.

    Twenty-four hours later, and after fellow passengers lost hope that they would ever come back, the two returned with the Ukrainian-flagged Valerian Zorin.

    Mustafa, the skipper, was ordered held for eight days by a Limassol court on Monday, and the passengers were taken to the £25-a-night Pefkos Hotel, where the divisions which prevailed aboard the Rida Allah were still evident: black Africans and Arabs sat at separate tables when lunch was served.

    [02] Employers sound alarm on economy

    EMPLOYERS said yesterday the 11th hour was approaching in the race to save the island's economy.

    After a meeting with President Clerides yesterday, Employers and Industrialists Federation (Oev) Chairman Andreas Pittas

    called on the government to remedy the problems in the public sector and to strengthen the private sector by decisive measures.

    "If the economy is going to grow at a satisfactory rate it is necessary for the state to provide support to the manufacturing and agricultural sectors which need reinforcing," Oev said.

    The employers organisation said the private sector, given the necessary help and support, had the potential to develop satisfactorily. But it said the public sector was "laden with dangers which will lead to instability for the whole economy and the worsening of the fiscal deficit".

    Immediate corrective measures are needed, the organisation said, because "we are at the 11th hour".

    [03] Galanos slams CyBC 'bloody-mindedness' over soccer ads

    By Martin Hellicar

    THE CYBC is to be red-carded by the House Finance Committee for ignoring its demand for a ban on advertising during live World Cup coverage.

    Committee chairman Alexis Galanos yesterday warned that the CyBC's "contempt" for the House would affect the committee's position when it came to approving the corporation's budget. He attacked the state broadcaster for its "bloody-mindedness" in ignoring deputies' demands for an immediate end to ad-infested coverage of the world's top sporting event.

    "They (the CyBC) feel they are in such a position of strength that they couldn't care less," Galanos said.

    On Monday, deputies on the committee - heading a growing public outcry against constant interruption of France '98 coverage - threatened to snip the CyBC's £17 million budget unless advertising during games was axed at once.

    The warning fell on deaf ears, and the CyBC's coverage of second round clashes between Mexico and Germany and Holland and Yugoslavia on Monday night were liberally interrupted by commercials for everything from soft drinks to coffee. The ads were there again for yesterday's early evening showdown between Romania and Croatia.

    "It is not a football issue, it's about the CyBC's attitude, bloody- mindedness and contempt," Galanos said.

    "The CyBC is destroying the World Cup spectacle with illegal adverts," he said.

    Interrupting live World Cup games with advertisements violates FIFA guidelines on live TV coverage and flies in the face of broadcasting regulations approved by the House.

    Galanos labelled the corporation's behaviour "unacceptable".

    During Monday's committee meeting, deputy Tassos Papadopoulos suggested an amount equal to that earned from advertising during games be cut from the CyBC budget if commercials during matches were not axed.

    Galanos repeated the threats to the ailing corporation's budget yesterday, saying he would back a punitive slashing of the state-owned broadcaster's overtime budget.

    "We do not want to overreact or appear populist, but we will make the appropriate response," he said. "I personally will vote against 50 per cent of the CyBC overtime budget."

    The chairman said he could not say what the position of the rest of the committee would be.

    A 50 per cent cut in the overtime budget would amount to a loss of about £1 million of the £17.5 million CyBC budget.

    The CyBC appeared unmoved by the committee's outrage yesterday.

    The head of the CyBC's commercial section, Michalis Rouvim, declined to comment on Galanos's statements.

    "We saw the statements by Mr Papadopoulos and we took relevant action," he said. He refused to detail what this "relevant action" was.

    CyBC head Pavlos Sotiriades was unavailable for comment due to illness yesterday.

    The cash-strapped organisation has argued that it needs revenue from such advertising to keep its head above water - a position not appreciated by a football-mad viewing public.

    The CyBC was reviled when it introduced ad-infested live TV coverage for USA '94. Thousands of enraged armchair fans were spurred to boycott products advertised during matches, forcing advertising heavies Coca-cola and Carlsberg to shelve commercials.

    Having incurred an operating deficit of £3.3 million last year, the CyBC is hoping the 1998 budget will be approved by the House without cuts.

    [04] Officials grilled over inaction on car emissions

    By Andrea Sophocleous

    CYPRUS is trailing behind Europe in controlling environmentally catastrophic car emissions, Works and Communication Minister Leontios Ierodiaconou admitted to the House Environment Committee yesterday.

    He assured the committee that the government would begin checking new and used imported cars in March 1999. Bills on car emission levels will be presented to parliament a year from now and, in less than two years, car inspection units will be in operation.

    The Minister's admission of Cyprus' non-conformity with European standards did not surprise deputies, who voiced concerns over unacceptable levels of pollution by cars in the committee last month.

    If levels are unchanged, sulphur content in diesel will be 200 times higher than levels allowed by EU directives for the year 2000.

    Deputies yesterday voiced their anger over government hesitation to initiate monitoring programmes for polluting cars, despite the issue having been on the agenda for six years. They pointed to the inadequacy of current regulations, which leave police powerless in cracking down on over- polluting cars by not specifying levels of pollutants in car emissions. Police are left to chase after "visible smoke", which drivers can easily eliminate by changing to first gear.

    Ierodiaconou repeated claims that the delay in enforcing effective controls was due to technical difficulties, but this did not satisfy the Committee chairman Demetris Eliades. Addressing the Minister, he said: "Admittedly it will be difficult, but action was first urged by the House in 1992. How many more years will we have to wait?"

    "We do not accept that after six years nothing has been done. Zero," he continued.

    "And the situation is worsening. What have you done?" he questioned ministry officials. "Nothing."

    Officials' claims that it would be impossible to implement a limit on car emissions received a similarly hostile reception. Eliades stressed that an enforced limit would be instrumental in creating an environmental conscience among members of the public. "It will make them realise that they cannot drive their car in Nicosia and pollute the air from here to Paphos," he said.

    Diko deputy Marios Matsakis asked officials how many smoke testers had been bought, and the response was that some machinery had been purchased ten years ago, but the Works Ministry has yet to purchase smoke testers. Police first asked for smoke testers in 1984 to enable them effectively to check car emissions.

    Averof Neophytou of Disy argued that in their desire to save money, Cypriots were refusing to spend £500 to install catalytic converters in their cars, a modification that would go a long way towards purifying exhaust gases.

    Matsakis complained of a "black Athenian cloud" over Limassol, leading to an increase in respiratory problems. His retort that "Cypriots' lungs are as black as Londoners" invited the only light moment of the meeting, as Eliades asked if that might not be because of cigarette smoking.

    Ierodiaconou repeatedly assured the committee that car monitoring units would be in operation by April 2000. "Our efforts are directed towards accelerating preparations so that monitoring of car pollution is begun as soon as possible" he said.

    [05] UN renews Unficyp mandate, raps arms race

    By Jean Christou

    THE UNITED Nations Security Council has renewed the mandate of Unficyp, the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus, for a further six-month period ending on December 31.

    With its resolution adopted unanimously, the Security Council called on the Greek and Turkish Cypriot sides to reduce tensions along the cease-fire lines and to resume talks on security issues.

    The resolution noted that the government of Cyprus had agreed that in view of the prevailing conditions on the island it was necessary to keep Unficyp beyond the expiry of its previous mandate.

    The Security Council also expressed its "grave concern at the continuing, excessive and increasing levels of military forces and armaments in the Republic of Cyprus".

    It refers to the rate at which military forces are expanding, and weapons systems being upgraded and modernised, and warns that the introduction of sophisticated weaponry and the lack of progress towards any significant reduction in the number of foreign troops "threaten to raise tensions both on the island and in the region and complicate efforts to negotiate an overall political settlement".

    The Security Council also calls on all concerned to commit themselves to a reduction in defence spending and a reduction in the number of foreign troops to help restore confidence between the parties.

    As a first step, it proposes the withdrawal of non-Cypriot forces as part of demilitarisation within the context of a comprehensive settlement, and calls on the leaders of the two communities on the island to resume discussions on security issues, which began in September 1997.

    The resolution notes that only one side (the Turkish Cypriot side) has so far accepted a package of measures put forward by the UN to reduce tensions on the Green Line.

    The Security Council also calls on the two leaders to return to the negotiating table, and appeals particularly to the Turkish Cypriot side to commit itself to the process of talks.

    In his official reaction to the resolutions, government spokesman Christos Stylianides said the most important result was that Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash and the government in Ankara had failed in their efforts to get the illegal regime "upgraded", or the government "downgraded".

    But he added that the government would have been happier had the apportioning of blame on the Turkish side for the impasse in dialogue been more clear-cut. Nevertheless, he concluded that the Security Council had "indirectly yet clearly" put the blame on the Turks.

    [06] Police face long process in search for Lady's Mile killer

    By Martin Hellicar

    POLICE are getting nowhere fast in the search for the killer or killers of Michalakis Evangelou, found stabbed to death on Lady's Mile beach last Thursday.

    "It looks like it will be a long drawn out process," British bases spokesman captain Jon Brown told the Cyprus Mail yesterday.

    The 22-year-old builder was found at about 6am inside a black Nissan car on a dirt track near the Zakaki football ground, inside the Akrotiri Sovereign Base Area (SBA). The killing is being investigated jointly by Cyprus and SBA police.

    Two men from Evangelou's village, Zakaki, were last week arrested in connection with the murder, but were later released without being charged.

    Brown said SBA police were seeking to question 89 people in connection with the murder.

    Limassol police have said the killing appeared to be part of a drug related gangland vendetta.

    Police believe there was a violent struggle between the victim and his attacker, during which Evangelou received six stab wounds to the stomach and in the side.

    It is understood the victim managed to crawl back into the car, which belonged to his fiancée, and drive to the spot where he was later discovered. Police said blood stains were found 100 meters away from where the vehicle was found.

    The time of the murder has been narrowed down to between 4am and 6am last Thursday, as the SBA police said a witness saw Evangelou buy two cheese pies and two cartons of milk at a kiosk in the nearby Metochi area at 4am.

    [07] MMAD officer beaten up by drunken tourist

    A DRUNKEN Norwegian tourist arrested on Monday for beating up a riot squad (MMAD) officer when the policeman tried to stop him attacking two fellow- nationals was yesterday released without charge.

    The incident took place at the Larnaca airport taxi rank on Monday afternoon, shortly after the 20-year-old tourist arrived for a holiday, police reported. MMAD officer Marios Aristidou was apparently attacked after he moved in to break-up a fight the drunken tourist had picked with two other Norwegians who had arrived on the same flight, police said.

    But Larnaca police said yesterday the Norwegian had been released without charge. "It was sorted out," the duty sergeant at Larnaca police headquarters said.

    The tourist had been arrested for causing actual bodily harm to Aristidou, who was on uniformed duty at the time of the attack. The duty sergeant said the MMAD officer had not been badly hurt in the attack.

    Under Cyprus law, drunkenness can count as a mitigating circumstance.

    [08] Lifestyle to blame for high rate of heart deaths

    AROUND 56 per cent of deaths in Cyprus are in some way related to heart failure, Cardiologist Dr Bambis Nicolaides said yesterday.

    Speaking at a press conference given by the Cyprus Heart Foundation, Nicolaides said that although Cyprus had the highest number of cardiologists per capita in Europe, as well as effective methods of diagnosis and high levels of technology, prevention levels remained low.

    According to World Health Organisation (WHO) figures, 12 million people die prematurely of heart problems per year worldwide; half of these deaths could be prevented, WHO affirms.

    Nicolaides said that Cypriots' high levels of smoking contributed greatly to the prevalence of heart disease, and added that Cypriots neither took enough exercise, nor followed a healthy diet.

    Around 24 per cent of Cypriots smoke.

    Nicolaides concluded that the road leading to heart problems was one of personal choice.

    At the press conference, it was also announced that National Heart Week would take place in November, with seminars and lectures on cardiological health.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1998

    [09] Crash victim found in crevasse

    A 26-YEAR-OLD insurance salesman was found dead next to his smashed car at the bottom of a 240-foot deep crevasse by the side of the Paphos to Polis road at dawn yesterday, police reported.

    Marios Christou, from Paphos, had been reported missing by his wife on Monday night. His body was found just before 6am yesterday.

    Police said they believed Christou was the victim of an accident that took place sometime between 7.30 and 8.30 pm on Monday. Christou apparently lost control of his vehicle on a tight bend on the road and careered into the crevasse, police said. There was no evidence of another car being involved in the accident, police added.

    Christou had left his home on Monday morning, telling his wife he was going to Polis for work and would be back for lunch. His wife reported him missing after failed to turn up several hours after lunch-time.

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